April 11, 2012

Pancake Session: Prepping For a Wedding

Hello and Happy Pancake Day!!

Justin & I are back home after our whirlwind of adventures this past week, and now we are gearing up for our next wedding which will be this weekend. Since our first wedding of the year was all the way back at the beginning of February, it kind of feels like that all over again with this one too. Like it’s our first wedding of the season, Part II. Apparently, I create anthologies with our weddings. What can I say, I’m a big fan of sequels.

Before any wedding, and especially before one when we haven’t shot other weddings in a while, I definitely get a case of the….well, I was going to say butterflies. But I dunno, “butterflies” sounds too soft and dreamy. Like I’m floating around the house in a ballerina outfit, turning pirouettes with my camera straps as we pack our lenses away in glitter covered gear bags. Nope. That’s not it. I’d say it’s more like I get a case of the Tracker Jackers. An angry swarm of genetically modified bees chasing me from room to room just daring me to forget. one. thing. as I race out the door. Yea, that’s more like it.

(And speaking of sequels, who’s already started a countdown in their heads until Catching Fire comes out?? Yea, *this girl*)

Anyway, since we know this about ourselves, that the nerves can run a little high the morning of a wedding, Justin & I have come up with a little pre-game routine we always run through the night before to help keep all that in check. We’re kind of like those superstitious baseball players who have to get ready the exact. same. way. before every game before they can take the field. I mean seriously, we’re about one step away from buying matching sweat socks that we refuse to wash all season. Yea, that wouldn’t be pretty.

Since we know that the nerves can get the best of all of us from time to time, we thought we’d share our routine here in case it might help a few of you out there. I mean, if I can save just one person from buying superstitious sweat socks, let’s face it… I know I’ll have done my job.

1. Division of Labor
The first thing I would say is that just like when we talked about “compartmentalizing our workflow” HERE, we are also dividing up the responsibilities in who takes care of what in getting us ready. This allows us to do the work in half the time, and we also know where the buck stops if something doesn’t get done. In short simple terms, Justin is the gear head and I am the coordinator. So he is taking care of everything that has to do with packing & prepping our gear, and I’m taking care of all things logistics like finalizing anything with the planner, printing off our info sheets, and setting the departure time.

2. Prepping the Gear
Justin’s routine goes basically like this: he’ll pop the camera batteries and rechargeable flash batteries on to the chargers (if they aren’t already fully charged) first so that they can be charging while he’s doing everything else. He will then clean our lenses and pack everything camera body related (lenses, flash & gels, pocket wizards ) into our two Think Tank Airport International bags (as you’ll see, we LOVE us some Think Tank!). Because we have configured them so that everything has a spot, he can quickly look at them and tell if anything is missing. He will then move on to packing the lighting & any supporting grip equipment into their own cases. Some things that he’s always certain to bring are extension cords, power adapters (for when we’re shooting in old estates that only have two prong outlets), surge protectors (for when we have to tap into the tent or band’s power source), and super clamps and sand bags to help hold everything down. So that’s gear, lighting and then he’ll move on to computers. He’ll make sure our laptop has a full charge and is packed away with the power cord in the Think Tank laptop case we have. He’ll also make sure that I have an external Lacie Rugged hard drive and my daisy-chain stackable Lexar card readers that can download up to three cards at once, so that I’m ready to go later when it’s time to download, backup and create a quick slideshow for the reception. The final step for him, is to make sure that all of our cards are cleared off and that our Think Tank Card Wallet is filled with 10 8-gig Lexar cards. We rarely ever need that much space, but starting with every spot in the case filled up also helps us track and make sure we’re leaving with every card at the end of the night. From there, the cards and the batteries (also stored in their own Think Tank Rechargable AA Battery Holder) get put into our gear bags and we’re ready to go for in the morning.

3. Coordinating the Logistics
Everything that falls on my side of things is about getting us to where we need to be, with everything we need in addition to the gear, and knowing everything we need to know about the day. So I’m in charge of touching base with the coordinator a final time if need be and/or going through the info sheet to make sure I have a very solid understanding of the timeline/considerations of the day. Once that’s all set, I will print off three copies of the info sheet- one for each Justin, Julia & myself – so that even if we have to split up at some point we’re all on the same page. That’s of course, after I have obsessive compulsively checked the date ten times to make sure I have the right date (seriously, what’s that about?? Please tell me I’m not the only one who does that!) Next, I will have either shopped earlier in the week or asked Julia to pick up our must-have supplies to keep us going strong on the wedding day. That’s usually a pack of bottled water to stay hydrated, Kashi granola bars because they’re delcious, almonds for energy, and aspirin in case of impending headaches. And I’m making sure all of that is getting packed up and ready to go in the car. After that, I will do a quick mapquest to figure out how long it should take us to get to the location, then I’m adding in a cushion for traffic, delays and to get us there early enough to be able to scout out everything. Using that number I’m figuring out our goal time to leave the next morning and also our “AIS” time, which is a little something we got from Everybody Loves Raymond :) that stands for “uh… tushy in seat” :) and is the absolute latest time we can leave.

4. Dress for your Brand
The final thing that falls under my umbrella is making sure our outfits are picked out and prepped (ironed, polished, accessorized :) for the following day. One of the biggest changes we saw in how we were treated at weddings (by bridesmaids, coordinators, location staff…and the connections we were making with them) was when we ditched the black shirt & pants and started dressing for our brand. So now Justin is always in a suit (or the occasional dress vest), nice tie, nice shoes. And Julia and I are either in a pants suit, dress pants & cardigan, or a dress/skirt. We’re also paying a lot of attention to wearing nice statement jewelry, and we always show up in heels. Yes we change to flats later on, but that initial impression and being dressed up in general have made a huge difference. So that we’re not running around on the morning of trying to figure out what to wear. I pick out my outfit, ask Justin what he wants to wear and I’m getting everything pressed the night before. One other thing that has made a HUGE difference in making our lives easier is that for Christmas, Justin’s mom got us this Rowenta pro iron steamer that creates a constant stream of steam and presses everything like when you get it from the dry cleaners. And it takes about a quarter of the time as our old iron did. It’s saved us a ton of time with way better results. We LOVE it & highly recommend it!

5. Have a mellow night
Finally, when I say “the night before” it should really read something more like “the late afternoon before a wedding” because we like to have everything done & squared away early so that we can have a nice, restful night together. We’ll go on a date night or watch a movie in, and we just take some time for calm before the storm. :) Also, this part is probably going to sound crazy, but we’re really careful about what we eat so that we’re sure we’re not sick the next day. It’s just one of those things that you start to think about when you’re a wedding photographer. I always know it’s wedding season when I haven’t had sushi on a Friday night for the past six months! :)

So there it is, our crazy routine! I hope it helped at least a little or gave you some good ideas. And as always, if you have any questions or something wasn’t clear you can just leave a question in the comments below.

Happy Pancake Day y’all!

And we’d love to hear your ideas too! Tell us some your wedding prep routine. Is there anything we missed? What are your favorite go to power bars? :)

  1. Abby Grace

    I always try to have some sort of sweet packed away in my car, like a fruit leather, for when I need a burst of sugar. And I got really strict [read: obsessive] about my pre-wedding check of my bag after that one time I left one of only two lenses I owned at home. WOO!

  2. Heidi

    Great post! I am definitely superstitious too. It is so great that you guys have a routine and everyone knows what to do. And I am the same way, checking the date a million times just to be sure. Great idea about no sushi too!

  3. Allison Andres

    I’ve recently started "dressing for my brand" as well! I’m still in a black dress (to hide stains/sweat/etc) but I add a low heel and bold necklace in my brand colors. It really has changed the guests perception of me.

    I am a big fan of Lara Bars! I have a protein shake before leaving the house and bring along 3 or 4 Lara bars. I have a vegan diet which can be hard with vendor meals, so it’s always smart to have a backup. Also, a pack of gum! I don’t like guests to see me chewing gum so I’ll have one piece for about 5 minutes as a quick refresh, then politely dispose of it.

    Wow, what a novel! ;)

  4. Shelly L.

    Thank you so much for this! I am prepping for my third wedding this weekend and literally was just going through my checklist! Thank you for adding a few ideas to my routine! You guys are the best!

  5. Stephanie Stewart

    Great post! I have a check-list that I put in each file so that I have a copy for each and every session coming up, including packing and cleaning gear, charging batteries, formatting cards, arranging everything in its place in my Think Tank (love!), programming any needed phone numbers and addresses, etc. One of my favorite snacks to pack besides granola bars is something with some chocolate! Kellogg’s makes a yummy bar with dark chocolate! Can’t wait to see you 3 work your magic this weekend! xoxo

  6. Ahna Beth Photography

    SUPER HELPFUL! Thank you!! :) I have my first wedding in less than 2 months. I was especially concerned about what to wear so that section made my day. :)

  7. Tara Peddicord

    I let out an audible "YES!" at my desk when I read the part about being careful about what you eat the night before so you don’t get sick. :)

  8. Morgan Trinker

    OMG, I thought I was the only one too paranoid to eat sushi (or Thai, or even really spicy/heavy Mexican) the day before a wedding! I’m so afraid of getting food poisoning that I literally will just eat PB&J’s and fruit and drink water. Gotta love those OCD pre-wedding freakouts– er, routines. :)

  9. Abbey

    This is great! I have a check list that I make my husband use when packing our stuff, but still I double check to make sure everything is there. Also, we now have a cooler which will have our drinks and snacks ready when we need it. I love the idea of getting everything ready the afternoon before and not the night before so that you can just relax!

  10. Gabby / En Route Photography

    My first wedding is this Saturday so this was extremely helpful… GRACIAS!!! ;)

  11. Justine Cirullo

    This is so great! as a very very new photographer who has her first wedding in 2 months this is so incredibly helpful and timely:) thank you so so much! i do have one question thoough… what is your info sheet? is that something that you have your brides fill out?
    thanks again:)

  12. Lauren Wakefield

    LOVE that memory card holder!! I think I need to get me one of those! :) Excellent advice. I never thought about watching what I eat the night before…very good advice.

  13. Jennifer Bacchiocchi

    Perfect timing! We have our first wedding of the season this weekend, too. It’s right about now that I truly appreciate how lucky I am to have an amazing partner/husband to share the load!! A very nice bonus to being married to a tech guy is that they take great care of the gear!

  14. Kandise

    Yes yes yes to all of this! Especially watching what you eat the day before. I once had the misfortune of photographing a wedding while I had the stomach flu, it is definitely not an experience I want to repeat with food poisoning. Have you heard of Vapur water bottles? I just got one for my travels and it’s been great. Easy to fill and folds up small when it’s empty!

  15. Rici

    Thank you two for sharing so many useful tips! I started to think about a night-before-wedding-routine some months ago, but you definitively added more super handy hints! Will have to make a list ;-))) Saluti!!!!

  16. Jackie Lamas

    so helpful to see how your routine goes! thank you so much for sharing!

  17. ashley barnett

    Chapstick! Chapstick is my life-saver on wedding days! I also always keep an electronic copy of our timelines/itineraries etc on my phone. I print out a couple copies too of course, but one time some venue workers picked up my folder full of papers and threw it away!! So I did not have the family formals list or anything- I was so thankful to have it all within easy access on my phone :)

  18. Sara Adams

    I probably double check that I have the correct date 100 times in the week prior to a wedding. So much so that I’ll give myself dreams where I missed the wedding because I had the date wrong, and then I’ll have to check the date another 100 times. :)

  19. Megan Gielow

    I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one that double checks the wedding date five times, AND refuses to eat sushi or any fast food the day before or day of. One of my biggest fears is waking up and being sick! :)

  20. Karen Bonar

    Mints. I like to keep peppermints in my bag … helps calm a queasy tummy if need be, and also freshens breath. Good for me or the bridal party. :)

  21. sharon elizabeth

    Love this!!! I also watch what I eat — I’m notorious for deciding to try something new the day before something huge is planned! AHH!

  22. Nicole Callaway

    Those darn Tracker Jackers buzz about my house also so I feel you. My most obsessive prep is location, location, location! My absolute worst fear is not being able to find the place or getting lost. I google map -then I look at google satelite so I can get a visual of whats around the place! Seeing as how I live at the beach and I work mostly beach weddings I shoot a lot of times at a large beach house so it’s not like a familiar venue it’s just a house! I also still get the little butterflies before every single wedding. While this may be the 212th wedding I’ve shot – for this couple it’s just the first and I can’t screw up. The day I stop getting butterflies is the day I stop being a great photographer. :)

  23. Nicole Callaway

    I also have a little "bridal emergency" bag in my camera bag – just simple with bobby pins, safety pins, lint rollers, downy wrinkle release, mints, bug spray and tums~ A lot of the time I’m alone with no wedding planner around and you never know what might happen.

  24. Lydia

    This was fun to read in between packing for my wedding tomorrow. Yes, a Friday the 13th wedding! But with my routine down, anything that goes wrong won’t be my fault! ;-) Love Luna Bars and Starbucks Double Shots!

  25. Christina Brosnan

    Hello Justin & Mary, I’ve been a follower of your blog for some time and just love your pancake sessions! I’m an American girl living in Ireland the past 8 years and shooting weddings the past 4 years. It’s such a different pace here. I love comparing weddings here to there. I’m so relaxed on the day and I think a lot of that has to do with the Irish way. They’re always trying to make sure you’re ok and not too tired. The first thing I’m most likely to hear on the wedding day is "relax and would you like a cup of tea?" I often get fed breakfast. It’s just crazy!

    Just wanted to ask about the high heels. At what point to you change shoes? My biggest worry when choosing shoes is that they don’t make noise during the ceremony. How do you get around this with heels?

    Ok that’s all I wanted to say. Stay awesome!

  26. Christy

    Oh – so that angry swarm of genetically modified bees chases you around the day before a wedding too?! Glad I’m not the only one! ;-)

  27. rich

    i know that these are such little points – but i have the same memory card holder and i put the cards in horizontally instead of vertically – i think your way makes more sense, haha! easier to get the card out that way! also, can’t believe that thinktank has a battery holder! i would very much like to replace our ziplock bag with one of those! thank you so much for sharing your workflow – so helpful because we definitely get the Tracker Jackers too!

  28. jackie g.

    omg Mary…i think about the food thing too! i would be horrified to have "tummy troubles" on wedding day!! great post! :)

  29. Katelyn James

    LOVE this so so much. What a beautiful family… with a beautiful story. Sharon you two are amazing and I love you to pieces. It’s amazing how much someone can go through within the first year of marriage…. you two are only going to be stronger for it:) Praying for you guys:)

  30. Katelyn James

    dang it!!!!!!!!! I commented on the wrong post…… I guess I was excited:) ha! #embarrassing

  31. Faye Bernoulli

    As the wife of a pharmacist, we have an arsenal of meds and supplies in our gear bag (most important are Motrin and Immodium). I’m also type 1 diabetic, so I make sure I have back up supplies (which is a whole other beast) and Capri Sun pouches because it takes me literally less than 30 seconds to finish one if my blood sugar crashes. Husband takes care of the gear while I print out copies of info sheets and directions and put them in a bright green plastic folder. Whew!

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